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Bernhard Langer wins third Senior British Open, 10th career senior major

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Bernhard Langer holds the Senior Claret Jug following his Senior British Open victory.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Bernhard Langer is the hottest golfer on the planet. The 59-year-old German sensation won the Senior British Open yesterday, his 10th major win on the senior circuit.

Langer shot 4-under par for the tournament, three shots ahead of America’s Corey Pavin, at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales. Langer held the lead or a share of it through all four rounds all the while battling a sore throat in the cool Wales weather.

“Wasn’t 100 percent,” Langer said after the victory. “Makes it even more meaningful.”

Langer has won three of this year’s major tournaments on the Champions Tour (formerly known as the Senior Tour)—Regions Tradition, the Senior PGA Championship, and Senior British Open. His victory last May at the Senior PGA Championship was the ninth senior major title surpassing Jack Nicklaus for the most titles in a major.

“It’s pretty neat to do something that nobody else has done before,” Langer said. “Like winning 10 senior majors, it’s not easily done. There’s a lot of competition out there. Very blessed and honored to have achieved that. Maybe there’s one or two more in the future, who knows? But right now, I’m just going to enjoy the fruit of the labor, and to have won three majors in one season is pretty spectacular, and it actually could have been four if I didn’t mess up two weeks ago (in the Senior Players Championship).”

He finished second behind Scott McCarron in the Senior Players Championship, losing the lead with a double bogey on the 71st hole two weeks ago.

Langer only won three times on the PGA Tour, but two of them were majors—the 1985 and 1993 Masters. He’s had other strong career performances in the Masters (seven top ten finishes), British Open (six top three finishes) in and U.S. Open (two top ten finishes). He never placed in the top ten at the PGA Championship with his best performance tied for 21st in 1987. He also won 42 times on the European Tour.

Since turning 50 (the minimum requirement for the Senior Tour) ten years ago, Langer has won 33 tournaments. Hale Irwin owns the record with 45 victories. Langer has won the Arnold Palmer Award (top money winner on the Champions Tour) five straight years and eight of the last nine years. He has earned the Jack Nicklaus Award (golfer of the year) the last three years and six times overall. Langer also has won the Byron Nelson Award (for the lowest tour score) the past three years and five times in his career.

Irwin was 62 when he won his 45th tourney. Langer turns 60 in 27 days and at 5-foot-9 and 169 pounds, he is more fit than his adversaries, who develop extra weight and health problems.

Except for a back injury he received in the military at the age of 19, Langer says he has remained mostly injury free.

“I feel the effects of aging,” he said. “I have aches and pains. There are things I can’t do. If I played soccer, I would get hurt. If I play tennis for an hour or two, I hurt. But in golf, I can practice and play and not hurt.”

Fellow Champions Tour player, Tom Lehman, said Langer inherited great genes. When playing in Germany 12 years ago, Lehman saw a 75-year-old woman playing soccer with Langer’s kids.

“She looked about 75. Turns out it was Bernhard’s mom,” Lehman said. “So not only does he have the work ethic and discipline, but he has great genes.”

Long-time bond

Some golf stars, like Tiger Woods, go through more than one golf coach in their careers. Not Langer. Willy Hoffman has been his coach for 43 years. Hoffman said in a recent Golf Digest article that Langer’s grip has evolved from “gradually moving from four knuckles showing on the left hand to about two knuckles today.”

“He wanted me to feel free to try things, but in the end, Willy has known me the longest and the best, and I knew he had insight into me,” Langer said. “We did changes, but in a way that allowed me to stay competitive every single year. And now I have it narrowed down to things that I know work for me. As far as controlling the ball, I believe I’m a better golfer than I’ve ever been.”

Lehman noted Langer is completely focused when he competes on the course.

“He has no chinks in the armor,” Lehman said. “He putts well, drives well, chips well. He thinks well. He’s passionate. He’s courageous. He’s a complete player.”

Born in Anhausen, Germany, Langer became interested in golf when he asked to tag along with one of his older brothers who caddies at a nearby golf course. By 14, Bernhard Langer knew he wanted to revolve his life around the game. A year later, he became an assistant pro when he moved 50 miles to Munich.

“I watched the pro where I was caddying, and I thought it would be great to help other people improve their game,” Langer said. “I learned to give lessons and run golf tournaments and all of the other things. I also kept improving my own game and joined the European Tour when I was 18.”

How much longer can Langer compete at such a high level after 41 years as a professional?

“I’ll be the first to know, I would think, when my game deteriorates,” he said. “If it gets to a level where I don’t enjoy it anymore and am finishing 40th or 50th and I can’t compete or can’t finish in the top 10 and have a chance to win a tournament, that’s time to hang up the clubs.

“We’ll see. I can’t tell the future, and I don’t want to. I’m going to enjoy this as long as it lasts.”

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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